Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


September 26, 2018 - The Hague, Netherlands

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Friends, good morning,

Thank you for inviting me to be here with you today to celebrate the life and shared legacy of Andrew Carnegie. It is my first visit to the Peace Palace as Secretary General of the Organization of American States.

I consider it a genuine honor to stand within these sacred walls and talk about the promotion and maintenance of peace in the Americas.

The Inter-American System has been constantly evolving for over a century. In its current iteration, the Organization of American States is the foremost political forum of the Western Hemisphere. Throughout this evolution, its core motivation and purpose have remained the same: the attainment and maintenance of peace and prosperity in the region.

The Organization of American States, as is it today, is guided by a founding Charter that recognizes democracy as indispensable for the stability, peace and development of the region.

It is grounded in a commitment to “good neighborliness” and “solidarity,” identifying the rule of law as a necessary condition for security and peace.

This building in which we have gathered, is dedicated to those very same principles and beliefs.

The post-Colonial history of the Americas is marked by a series of collaborative, international efforts that have been continually building toward this goal.

We see this illustrated in the plethora of arbitration treaties to address sensitive cross-borders issues, including boundary disputes, by the frequent declarations against the right of conquest and in favor of the condemnation of war, and a commitment to seeking out non-violent means to resolve disputes between our countries through the mechanism established and mandated under international law.

Our history is marked by numerous congresses and conferences, all convened to create and strengthen the economic, social and cultural ties of the region, and in turn, further continental cooperation, solidarity and brotherhood.
One can see the impact of these initiatives by simply comparing the maps of Latin America to those of Europe as they developed over the course of the 20th century.

Through two World Wars, the deterioration of state powers and ethnic divisions caused European nations to witness constant territorial shifts. New borders were carved across old lands. Mighty nations enveloped weaker, smaller states, while, in some cases new countries emerged within old ones.

In contrast, the Americas stand as a model of stability and solidarity.

There have been remarkably sparse changes to our borders, let alone cases of cross-border violence or overt inter-continental conflict. In situations where disagreements arise, Latin American states have demonstrated clear willingness to pursue dialogue and seek out international mediation to resolve their disputes.

In many ways, I attribute this tradition to the mediation and peace-building initiatives underpinning the Inter-American system. We have proudly built regional mechanisms to address the challenges of our hemisphere, be it through the Pact of Bogota, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, [a model for NATO], the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

When these instruments and institutions have been unable to resolve the challenges before them, there has been a willingness to, time again, employ the global international institutions that were designed to address these very challenges.

The Carnegie Peace Palace is a testament to this tradition. It is at the International Court of Justice, where countries of our hemisphere have not only sought resolution to border disputes and inter-state conflicts, but have also returned to resolve their disagreements with those resolutions.

It was a little over a year ago it became apparent that the scale of abuse and human rights violations perpetrated in Venezuela amounted to Crimes against Humanity.

During the violent demonstrations of the Spring and Summer of 2017, my Third Report on the Situation in Venezuela stated that there was evidence pointing to the “systematic, tactical and strategic use of murder, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence as tools to terrorize” the people of Venezuela.

In July 2018, I appointed former ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, as a special advisor to help define and launch an impartial and independent process that would allow the OAS to gather information on the situation to assess whether crimes against humanity had been committed in Venezuela.

In May 2018, the Panel of Independent Experts released their report indicating there are reasonable grounds, that satisfy the burden of proof required by Article 53 of the Rome Statute, to believe that crimes against humanity had in fact taken place in Venezuela. Shortly after, I formally submitted the Report to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, requesting that the Prosecutor open a full investigation on an urgent basis.

In the months since, we have been working diligently to identify a coalition of countries from the region to invoke Article 14 of the Rome Statue and formally refer the situation in Venezuela to the ICC.
We are close. We are optimistic that very soon we will see a historic and clear voice from the Americas, stating that they have chosen to support the path of international law, and recognize that in this case, a global response is necessary to stop the illegitimate use of force and aggression against civilians.

The international community must speak in a loud and clear voice to say that impunity in Venezuela must come to an end. These countries are assuming their responsibility to protect the citizens of Venezuela from the terror of the dictatorship running their country.

If we want to be genuine in our pursuit of peace, then we must be willing to stop the violence and conflict where it begins and before it takes hold. We must be able to stop rogue regimes and prevent drug traffickers from interfering with and taking over our governments,

This requires the political will and commitment of decisions makers, of those who hold the levers of power and control the monopoly on the use of force, to always put the interests of their citizen’s first. Because violence and instability is in no one’s interest.

Close to three years ago, I spoke publicly of my concerns about the deterioration of the democratic process in Venezuela.
In the months following we proceeded to track and document the assault on the country’s democratic institutions while they dismantled, coopted and corrupted and the government caused a man-made humanitarian crisis of scale not seen in our region through corruption and incompetence.

I clearly condemned the growing pattern of abuses, calling on the international community to help resolve the developing crisis in Venezuela. There was no political will to act. Abuses against democracy and human rights cannot be hidden by misguided rationalizations of internal jurisdiction especially because the protection of democracy and human rights is not a matter exclusively of the internal jurisdiction of the member states.

In claiming non-intervention, the international community shirked their responsibilities and chose support the status quo.

As the Maduro regime lost the support of their people, it declared its citizens the enemy and chose a path of oppression and fear. It designed a State policy of repression implementing a widespread and systematic pattern of arbitrary detention, torture, and violence against anyone who might disagree with them.

It weaponized the humanitarian crisis depriving innocent civilians of food and essential medicines, causing countless deaths and forcing the largest migration crisis this hemisphere has seen.

More than 12,000 Venezuelans have been arbitrarily detained, that we know of. More than 131 killed in protests on government orders, more than 8,000 extra judicial killings. More than 1300 political prisoner incarcerated. Detainees are tortured and abused, in some cases subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence, operating as if by formula, following a consistent pattern and using systematic tactics. This is what the evidence we collected clearly shows.

More than 2.5 million Venezuelans have fled the country in the past three years. And every day, so do hundreds more. It is estimated that another 1.5 million will leave in the next year. That is more than 10% of the population forced out of their homes, searching for their survival.

The consequences of Venezuela’s collapse are already felt well beyond its borders. The situation in Venezuela now threatens the peace, stability and security of its neighboring countries.

In the pursuit of peace, we must ask the question ‘When is the time to act?’
If we consider the greatest tragedies of our lifetime, when was the time to act. In Rwanda, was it after 100 deaths? After 1,000? After 10,000? When was the moment to stop Pol Pot?

If we want to achieve peace we must be willing to act before we are counting the dead. To achieve peace, we must be willing to use every measure available to prevent violence and conflict, and stop it when it begins.

We must be unequivocal in our condemnation of the illegality of armed attack, invasion or aggression. Let me be clear, every action must be taken within the confines of international law.

Invoking Article 14 of the Rome Statue would be an important and essential step in bringing an end to impunity and gaining justice for all of humanity.

We cannot confuse the notion of “peace”. You cannot achieve meaningful peace through the use of force and coercion. It is not peace when thousands are dead or in jail and millions are fleeing the country. This is the kind of peace that Maduro’s dictatorship is installing.

The peace that we seek for Venezuela is one that arises from social cohesion, from inclusive economic institutions and from democratic political governance. There is no sustainable peace without a strong democracy, without respect for the rule of law, and without protections for human rights.

Although it is the most acute, the challenges to peace in the Americas are not limited to the atrocities in Venezuela.

The daily challenges facing the Western Hemisphere are not those of inter-state conflict or open war. Yet, we cannot boast that we are a peaceful region. For it is not war that threatens our countries but the consequences of corruption, weak rule of law, and insufficient social development.

Corruption is a disease in our societies that progressively undermines the trust of citizens in their governments, weakening their stability and undermining economic development. Democratic institutions are weakened, to extend the hold on power after the popular will has shifted.

Our cities have the highest rates of violence in the world caused by organized crime and the narcotics trade, gangs, trafficking of persons, terrorism, and other forms of organized crime.

Increasingly, we are falling victim to natural disasters and the consequences of climate change.

The real path to peace comes from tackling these issues at their onset.

We must be willing to act before there is a death toll, and before we are preparing contingencies for the countless who have lost their homes, their livelihoods, and their families.

It is to this end that the Inter-American system is working on a conceptual framework to address these contemporary problems and threats to peace and security in the region before they are allowed to become a crisis. In order to prevent and deescalate them in a more comprehensive manner.

This examination has ensured an ongoing dialogue and open political debate on the need for a multidimensional approach to security which replaces the traditional thinking of security as territorial integrity with a new concept where human beings are placed at the center of security concerns.

This is why I established the Department for the Promotion of Peace within the General Secretariat of the OAS. This new unit will strengthen our capacity to promote and deepen this essential and ongoing dialogue.

Today, I am here to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the OAS and the Carnegie Foundation as one of the first initiatives of this Department.

Together, we will engage in a comprehensive effort at “partnering for peace,” with like-minded organizations through the development and implementation of joint programs on conflict prevention and peace building.

The two buildings that house our institutions: The Peace Palace and the House of the Americas have a shared history that reflects this very goal. They were erected thanks to the generosity of, and as part of the legacy of Andrew Carnegie.
Both serve as symbols of his visionary quest for “universal peace and prosperity for all mankind.”

Today, we are witness to another important step forward in realizing Carnegie's dream through this new partnership between the Carnegie Foundation and the Organization of American States.

Peace is hard work. It is too easy and too often that our leaders fall into the traps of power and greed. Long-term stability, security and prosperity are an uphill battle which, in turn, requires a long-term investment.

Oppression and repression, be it domestic or internationally driven, are the biggest sources of armed conflict.

The preamble of the UN Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that “whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”

Promoting and sustaining peace is a demanding task that involves a concerted effort from all sectors of society. It also requires the staunch support and action of the global community.

A constructive, vigorous, and participatory process to successfully foster dialogue for resolving conflicts within a framework of a culture of peace can only be created through cooperation and seeking common ground.

In other words, it entails a more proactive role in conflict prevention and resolution.

Time and again, the world has shown how easy it is to look the other way in the face of tragedy, to choose the status quo over action. Time and again the world has shown – through brutal experience – that the cost of conflict surpasses immeasurably the cost of peace.

It is my hope that through the creation of mechanisms, such as the one that will be established today, that we will be able to prevent the tragedy of another Venezuela, be it in our hemisphere or elsewhere in the world.

To paraphrase the esteemed Nobel Peace Laureate and former President of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias Sanchez, the international community must begin to show the difference between those who invest in life and those who invest in death and violence.

I look forward to continue working with the Carnegie Foundation and with all of you here today so that together we can continue to build on Andrew Carnegie’s inspirational international legacy.